Republican gubernatorial challenger David Williams' tax reform ideas read like a plan he's fairly sure he'll never have to govern under.
The Senate president would start by wiping out nearly half the state's tax base by eliminating personal and corporate income taxes. He would further erode the tax base with a cornucopia of temporary cuts, mainly for businesses, although he also wants to reduce local governments' revenue by temporarily lowering occupational taxes.
Then he would assign a commission of experts to come up with a new tax system that the legislature would have to vote up or down. We wonder, though, why an expert panel is needed when about the only option left would be to drastically increase state sales taxes, thereby shifting more of the tax burden from higher income to lower income Kentuckians, or giving to the rich and taking from the poor.
It's noteworthy that Williams' newly released economic plan comes with no numbers attached to any of the proposals, making it comfortingly vague.
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Instead of hard numbers, the Williams-Farmer plan relies on the "job creators" of Republican rhetoric to shower Kentucky with goodies in exchange for tax cuts. Much of their economic plan is Tea Party-inspired boilerplate, which posits that the economy remains stalled because of overregulation, taxation and unions.
Oh, if it were only that simple. Corporations are sitting on vast hordes of cash, it's true. The reason they're not spending it on new hires and new production has nothing to do with taxes or regulations and everything to do with weak demand in this still faltering economy.
Of course, Kentucky was faltering economically and losing ground to other states even before the Great Recession.
While we've long urged the legislature to reform the state's outmoded tax system, growing Kentucky's economy will require a lot more than tax cuts. The state must invest in education, infrastructure and smarter economic development strategies. That's a harder sale — and one that requires more vision — than the old reliable political saw of promising a slew of tax cuts.
To prosper, Kentucky also needs a broader, more reliable tax base while Williams' plan would narrow the tax base.
Williams, who's trailing Democratic incumbent Steve Beshear in the polls, was no doubt going for big and bold, rather than thoughtful. Still, it's disappointing that an intelligent politician, who has served a quarter century in the legislature, produced an economic plan that reads less like it's based on an intimate acquaintance with Kentucky's challenges than that it just rolled off the GOP assembly line.